Caverna – Review

Theme

You are a dwarf. You have a spouse. You live in a cave that’s in desperate need of a makeover and a plot of land that is ripe with opportunity to create the most beautiful farm filled with grains, veggies and of course, animals! While the theme of Caverna may not sound like it will be any fun, don’t be fooled because it is an excellent game that offers tight strategy and a feeling of great satisfaction as you develop your land and end with something that’s truly unique every time you play.


Mechanics

Caverna is a worker placement and resource management game where the goal is to build the wealthiest home for your family of dwarves. Each round, players will take actions available only to them when they place their workers on an action space. Like many other worker placement games, a player can increase the number of actions they take by acquiring more workers – and in the hilarious case of Caverna, this happens in the form of wishing for children. Because how else is a family supposed to grow in size?

Some of the other actions that you can take include collecting resources that allow you to build fields and pastures to hold crops and farm animals, or furnish your cave with unique rooms that grant bonuses or open new strategies for end-game scoring. In Caverna, you can even train your workers to become warriors and go on expeditions and reap a great deal of loot! Part of the joy in Caverna is discovering the many paths to achieving victory and figuring out how to best implement your strategy.

The resource management element of this title comes into effect at the end of several rounds, when you may be required to feed your workers. Throughout the course of the game, you’ll want to produce enough crops and animals to convert into food, ensuring your family is well fed. Failing to do so incurs a penalty in the form of a beggar token, which gives negative points calculated at the end of the game and this is one of the most punishing mechanics of Caverna. Characteristic of Uwe Rosenburg titles, it is inevitable that you will lose points in any one of his games, but it’s up to you to decide how to minimize the impact of that loss.

The game plays over 12 rounds, and each round reveals a new action space, providing more variety and opportunities to develop your farm and cave dwelling. While 12 rounds may seem like a lot of time to get your engine running smoothly, you’ll soon find that the game will come to an end well before you can do everything you want. Caverna is all about being as efficient as possible with a limited amount of time, while adapting your strategy based on what actions are available to you during your turn. It’s a puzzle I enjoy tackling quite a bit.

Components

If there’s one thing that Caverna offers in spades, it’s the sheer amount of custom components that come inside the game. All of the animals and resources are individually shaped and coloured – there isn’t a single wooden cube present in this game! The cardboard pieces as well are nice and thick, which makes upgrading your farm so satisfying when you hear the ‘click’ of laying the tiles onto your player board.


You can probably imagine that due to all of the different components that setup can be pretty lengthy – and it is. One thing that I did to reduce the overall setup time and table footprint of this game was purchase a custom insert for my copy of Caverna. Broken Token makes fantastic laser-cut wooden inserts for a variety of games that are worth checking out, as they are impressive to look at and easy to assemble. Be warned however, that the inserts aren’t cheap, as they can cost about as much as a brand new game! Alternatively, if you’re handy with a cutting knife, you can make your own inserts using foamcore found at your local craft store and there are many resources online to help you with creating your own insert.

Conclusion

I’ll admit that I had Caverna sitting in my collection for over a year before I actually brought it on the table to play. Despite its critical acclaim, I was intimidated by the amount of components and tiles, all which made this seem like a very complex Euro game. However, after finally committing some time to sit down with the rulebook, I found that the gameplay was fairly easy to learn and apply, making Caverna a pleasant medium-weight game. Because of the wide variety of choices that players can make on their turn, Caverna doesn’t feel like a “mean” worker placement game, where you’re at risk of being completely blocked off from making an optimal play.

Surprisingly, Caverna accommodates up to 7 players, however I would suggest that you play this game at most with 5 people, as there would be quite a lot of downtime in between turns, especially if you play at the full player count.

Overall, Caverna is a wonderful game with a whimsical, lighthearted theme and an easy recommendation from me if you’re looking for something that is both engaging and strategic, while doing away with any of the cutthroat competitiveness that you may find with similar games. Great fun, Caverna is a must-play!

If you are planning to purchase Caverna from Amazon, or would like to help support Devetos Gaming, please use this link!

Written by: Ryan Chan

My passion for board games started in 2014 when I first visited a board game cafe and walked out with Castle Panic that same day. Since then, my love for tabletop gaming hasn't stopped and my collection continues to grow. When I'm not playing board games you can find me scaling the walls of a climbing gym or walking around with my camera in hand.

28 Comments Added

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  1. Mark W April 21, 2017 | Reply

    Great review. I’ve always wanted to try this one. For some reason, the visual design has never appealed to me but the gameplay sounds great.

    • Ryan April 21, 2017 | Reply

      The mechanics are indeed very solid. I agree that the design is an acquired taste but the gameplay is great!

  2. Umut C April 21, 2017 | Reply

    Good review. Being a dwarf family, improving your cave, going to adventuring… All of it is very appealing to me since I love dwarves in D&D too, they are my favourite race. Gorgeous components are a good thing too of course. I love everything about this game.

    • Ryan April 21, 2017 | Reply

      Thanks Umut! I agree the sheer amount of custom bits is a highly appealing factor to this game

    • Ryan April 21, 2017 | Reply

      Thanks Ruben!! 🙂

  3. James April 23, 2017 | Reply

    I’ve been interested in trying this one!

    • Ryan April 23, 2017 | Reply

      I recommend you give it a shot if you have the opportunity! It’s definitely worth trying at least once 🙂

  4. Steve April 23, 2017 | Reply

    I may add this one – having 7 is a bonus.

  5. David Riley April 23, 2017 | Reply

    Thanks for the review. Makes me morse sure that I should stick with Agricola – I enjoy the cut-throat nature of that game and would probably find this one a little too “nice”.

    • Ryan April 25, 2017 | Reply

      Caverna is a fairly passive and doesn’t have the same “cutthroat” nature as Agricola. I’m glad this review helped to affirm your decision on which of the two games you would have preferred to keep 🙂

  6. Darkovary April 24, 2017 | Reply

    I would like to buy the game but it’s kindda expensive :/

    • Ryan April 25, 2017 | Reply

      I agree it can be on the pricey side, but keep your eyes peeled for a sale at your FLGS! Good luck!

  7. Patrick.sgn April 24, 2017 | Reply

    Great Review! Caverna is in my top o favoritr Board Game. I don’t play often has it’s quite time consumming (the setup + the play + the endless thinking) but I’m always excited to bring it to the table. I heard they’ll make a w players version.. Interesting as I find Caverna to be quite good at two players with the modular board but we’ll see!

    • Ryan April 25, 2017 | Reply

      Thanks for the kind words! I’m quite interested to see the 2 player version of this game as well. I’m sure it’ll be great since Uwe Rosenberg is no stranger to 2 player games!

  8. TARDIS April 25, 2017 | Reply

    Thanks for the review. A friend wanted to get this to the table but I have a lot of games to play. I think I will give it a shot.

  9. NShip April 26, 2017 | Reply

    Thanks for the review. Upon reading I decided that this one isn’t for me.

    • Ryan April 27, 2017 | Reply

      I’m glad my review was able to help you come to a firm decision 🙂 Hope to be of further assistance as I write more reviews!

  10. kroen April 29, 2017 | Reply

    Not enough randomnass=not enough replayability IMO.

  11. Gabriel April 29, 2017 | Reply

    Great game we really liked it, replayability decided by the players playing the game , very little randomness.

  12. Bill Martin May 6, 2017 | Reply

    Been on my list forever. Thanks for reviewing. Helps to move it back to the top

    • Ryan June 4, 2017 | Reply

      I’m glad this review helped to rekindle your interest! It’s a very enjoyable game and one I would never turn down to play!

  13. Gunder May 9, 2017 | Reply

    With this game having so much commenting, I am surprised at the 7.5 rating

  14. DJHAAK May 24, 2017 | Reply

    It’s on the list to try!

  15. KHamilton May 24, 2017 | Reply

    I would really like to give this one a try.

  16. Spelletjes Enzo June 3, 2017 | Reply

    Nice review.

    Played the game a few times.
    It was each time nice to play but somehow lost my interest in the game. Maybe the amount of small rules, game components … don’t know. Anyhow sold my copy

  17. Ronnay June 4, 2017 | Reply

    Great game. Even with 2 players.

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